TNA Impact returned last night (March 29, 2016) with the first title defense of the Drew Galloway era. Let's see how they did, shall we?
Matt Hardy, Reby, Tyrus, and Rockstar Spud come to the ring. Matt demands his title rematch tonight, despite Drew Galloway already defending against his brother Jeff. The Miracle Mike Bennett and Maria interrupt and walk down to the ring. Bennett tells Hardy that he needs to calm down because he's getting older and he'll hurt himself. The Miracle agrees that no one wants to see a Jeff Hardy title shot, but no one wants to see Matt as champ either. Instead, what this company needs is a miracle. As Maria starts to talk, Reby cuts her off to talk some trash. Reby is fired up but Maria stay calm and Matt holds Reby back to calm down.
Matt tells Bennett that he is the type of guy who could have been Hardy's friend, but it's clear Bennett has no respect. Bennett says he doesn't respect him and while, he is a future hall of famer, he's old and washed up.
EC3 comes out and compares everyone in the ring to the three stooges (Bennett is Shemp) and they can have a PopTV show called "EC3's Three Bitches." Since the Miracle is in the ring, and since Carter is a former all star Alter Boy, he says a prayer to God asking him to save a spot in the afterlife for Mike Bennett's career. Bennett says that he didn't need TNA. TNA needed him. So he decides when he is going to fight and it is not tonight. Hardy tells EC3 that if he wants a fight, he can have one... against all of the Matt Hardy Brand.
EC3 defeats Rockstar Spud, Matt Hardy, Tyrus, and Reby Sky via DQ when Mike Bennett runs in and attacks Carter.
A post match beat down on Ethan ensues. Beer Money runs down to make the save, and Bobby Roode makes a 3 on 3 match (because he can do that?)
Matt Hardy, Tyrus, and Mike Bennett defeat Beer Money and EC3 after Hardy pins Roode. Well before, EC3 had chased the Miracle into the back so they were not a factor at the end of the match.
This was a very long opening segment. In this case too long, especially since half of it being a 4 on 1 match, which are never going to be entertaining. Either someone is going to be getting their arse kicked the entire time or it's not believable.
Early on, I really enjoyed Matt Hardy and Mike Bennett's interaction in the ring. There are a lot of moving parts in the main event picture, and it's fun to see two heels hate each other. Because of course they'd hate each other. They are two big egos gunning for the same thing, in this case the TNA title. Even though two guys have a similar enemy, there's no reason they should like each other. Playing up their animosity adds a bit of complexity to the story than the heels attacking the face and it's always something that can be revisited down the road.
Bennett still continues to impress me as a promo. He never seems lost and always seems confident. And he can make his words count. When he called Matt "old and washed up" he made those words seem like a powerful insult without having to use a words that already comes preloaded. As he said that, I thought myself, someone else easily could have said "bitch" there for a cheap pop, but he didn't.
Which brings me to what I don't think is clicking: EC3 as a face. The man is still charismatic with a great look. He's certainly not bombing. But that special aura that surrounded him he he was the arrogant yet clever douchebag isn't there anymore. And, while I'm not saying the word "bitch" can never be used, it always feels cheap. It gets a pop from most crowds but is never truly earned. As Bennett proved earlier and Carter proved a thousand times over during his heel run (in which I don't think he ever used the word bitch), you can get a great reaction in more creative or even simpler fashions. So when he said the "Three bitches" line, it hurt a little. It's not some cardinal sin to use the word and it wasn't even a bad promo. The entire promo, including the prayer, all seemed below Carter's standards though.
Part of it is the issues just comes with being a face. I would imagine it's much easier to be a heel because you can say whatever you want. There's no line to tow. But a face needs to be entertaining and cut a promo to garner love from the crowd. It's tougher for someone like Carter who already looks like an athletic specimen. He doesn't have that underdog look or feel that helps many faces connect.
The other issue is, Carter rarely loses. He turned face after a brutal loss against a freshly turned heel Matt Hardy and at that point, sympathy was high for him. But asides from Rockstar Spud costing him the title in the cage match, Carter has never looked beaten down or even challenged. It's tough to feel sympathetic for a good looking guy who is always in control. Not that he should take a bunch of clean losses, the heels need to actually get the upper hand a bit more. The more we see him beaten down, the more we'll want to see the ass kicking machine kick some ass.
This is a lot of words on Carter's face turn, but warranted given the fact he is one of the company's top guys, if not the top guy. The man is super talented and I think the face turn will work. But it's not there yet.
Madison Rayne defeats Velvet Sky in a Number one Contenders match
This match was set up backstage by Gail Kim. She said that since Maria Kanellis gave away her title shot, Gail also went to management to set up a number one contenders match of her own. This match is between Rayne and Sky.
It doesn't really make any sense in the story being told but it's something that maybe will explain itself with time. Perhaps Gail was trying to show Maria that she too can make a #1 contender, but if that's it, this was a weak detour of an overall good story. Gail is the fighting champion so why wouldn't she just gear up for Jade, who did earn her title match last week? What's the purpose of making a different number one contender? None of it seemed to make sense.
The match itself felt like both Rayne and Sky were going through the motions. There was nothing bad, but it certainly didn't have any fire. It didn't help that the story that set it up was pretty baffling.
Pope gets into the ring to say that Pope wants to be the Pope that everyone knows the Pope to be. Bobby Lashley interrupts before he can say the word "Pope" any more.
Lashley demands an apology from Pope for interfering in his business and then afterwards, Pope is to return to the announce table. Pope tells Lashley that while he has no regrets in the business, and while he loves announcing, if he returns to the announce table, he will regret it. So instead, he challenges Lashley to a fight.
Lashley isn't sure he even wants to entertain this notion. But he gives him one more chance to get back to the announce table before he hurts him. Instead of heeding Lashley, Pope attacks him and the men brawl. Early on, Lashley has all the advantage, but this ends up becoming a full pull apart brawl.
When I heard that Pope was retuning to TNA last year, I was pumped. I always enjoyed the D'Angelo Dinero persona from years back. Then they put him on the announce table which was not what I was looking forward to. Now that it looks like he transitioning off of announcing, which he's not good at, into the an on-screen character, which he is very good at.
While I poked a little fun at how much he said Pope in his first few lines of the promo, Pope can be a fire on the stick. He can work up that passion to really get you to buy into him. The segment was bolstered by the fact the crowd loved him (they are the only ones who don't have to listen to him on commentary... it's pronounced "Su-plex" dammit!)
To his credit, Lashley, who's notoriously not a good promo, has been good as the soft spoken ass kicker. The early stages of this story have unfolded well. It's been paced well and both men are on point in their roles. Hopefully it delivers on what it has been building.
The BroMans defeat Bram and Eric Young
Prior to this match, there was a backstage segment where Jessie has the idea for the BroMans to become "darker." While I wouldn't really consider them "darker," they were more aggressive here. It's wise to position the BroMans as more of a threat because the tag division is too thin to recast them as their former comedy unit.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the duo Josh Mathews dubs the "Terror Twins" (and the sign in the crowd dubbed "Crazy Beards"), the relationship of Bram and EY continues to fray. Following the classic plot device, this time it was EY who accidentally hit Bram as opposed to the opposite last week. That directly lead to their loss tonight.
So it's pretty obvious that The Crazy Beards are on a collision course. It's lucky too because I don't believe it was known that EY was going to be on his way out when this was being built. Bram is a talent that should be flying solo. He's done good singles work prior and he's being wasted in this tag team. Their feud full of crazy could be fun as it takes us there.
Backstage, Grado is talking up his party with Mahabli Shera when Al Snow comes and beats them both up with ease. He takes a pipe and smashes Grado's arm with it. In the end he tells Grado, "You don't belong here."
Random (adj): This segment.
Though Grado actually did have a feud with Al Snow over a year ago, so I guess it's not THAT random. That is if they remember that happened.
Shane Helms and Trevor Lee are in the ring. Helms said that he came to TNA to make people start talking about the X Division again. However he has more on his agenda than just that. He calls Eddie Edwards down to the ring and tells him that he respects the Wolves greatly. Eddie talks about how much the Wolves mean to him; however, with Davey on the shelf, he'll have to go it as a singles competitor for awhile. Helms has other ideas. He wants to be a champion himself and proposes that he team with Eddie and they go for the tag titles. He gives him a week to think about it.
This is an intriguing turn of events. While it feels like this will ultimately lead to Lee/Edwards, instead of just jumping to it, they'll take a little time to build to it. Helms is play the role of manipulator well, trying to move pieces to control more power. Now TNA needs to keep featuring these men more consistently if they really want to get people "talking about the X Division again."
Drew Galloway defeats Jeff Hardy to retain the TNA title
After the match, Matt hardy comes down to tell Drew that he's got his title rematch next week. Drew doesn't want to wait. Despite having a war with Jeff, he wants to fight now. Before they can, Eric Young and Bram attack Jeff Hardy. Then alongside Matt, they attack Jeff and Drew. However, Jeff and Drew are able to fend off their attackers and stand tall. Jeff tells Eric Young his issues with him end next week in Six Side of Steel.
While the main event had some good spots and was a novel match in the sense these men have never faced before, none of it really clicked. The match heads into commercial before they can start building much, but by the time they return from commercial, it's right into each guy kicking out each other's finishers. Then they move onto a spot where Jeff moves the ring steps order to bang Drew's head against them. Then he goes up to the top rope to deliver a Swanton Bomb from onto Drew, who is on the steps outsides. Drew gets his knees up to block. (This was a really cool looking spot.)
He then slides the challenger in and as Jeff gets up, Drew pleads for him to stop. Jeff doesn't and Galloway hits the Future Shock for the win.
The build to the match was non-existent. I had assumed this would be a non-finish to build another feud, thinking there's no way they'd not give a little build to Jeff Hardy vs. Drew Galloway. But that was incorrect. So the match had already suffered from the complete lack of set up.
Then the match was paced poorly (it could very easily have been paced well but edited poorly.) And because of it, when Drew is telling Jeff to please stop going, it doesn't come off as an moment that's earned. They referred to it as a war, but asides from a couple high spots, it never felt that way.
It wasn't a bad match, but much like the entire episode, the motions were there but little clicked.
Pros of the Show:
- A more serious BroMans
- Building an intriguing Shane Helms/Eddie Edwards story
- The Pope's back as a competitor
Cons of the Show:
- EC3's face persona hasn't hit the mark yet
- The uninspired woman's match with a more uninspired set up
- The main event never clicked
After everything last week felt sharp, this week's episode felt dull.